Aya Academy of Excellence


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The following is a list of all entries from the Education category.

Single Mom’s Club Movie Review – Tyler Perry’s Take On Family Engagement

Tyler Perry's Single Mom's Club Actresses

As a single parent, I was curious what Tyler Perry’s take on single mommiehood would look like on screen. He consistently gets hammered, often unfairly, for his depictions of African American women and their relationships with men.  While catching a matinee of the film on opening day, I was amused at how Tyler…we are on first name basis…call me Tyler.  o;)… paralleled five distinct personalities and lifestyles while linking them together with a common cord – single parents need support.  Looking past the unrealistically well-appointed homes and outrageously gorgeous wardrobes of most of the characters, there was a realness in the challenges they each faced.  Looking at each through the prism of Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, it was evident that they were all capable of addressing the parenting challenges they were encountering after experiencing the blessing of a support system,.  –> Spoiler Alert – a few of the details of the story are listed below. Tyler, forgive me.  :o)

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Parent Engagement and the Five Love Languages

1. Time – Jan, the ever busy ”I am Woman, Hear Me Roar’ mom is painted as a selfish, acidic professional who has not struck a balance between her at-work and at-home responsibilities. And she does not seem have found joy in either.  Her child feels unloved and invisible due to her mother’s penchant for signing her up for extracurricular activities to enable her to stay at work late.  Lesson: Our children should feel our excitement and joy at being a parent.  Children are highly perceptive beings and can sense when we believe that time spent together as a family is meaningful or when they are being regarded as an unnecessary appendage.  On a personal note, my ladybugs had to admonish me for my social media use; I am now on a 12 Step Plan.  There was a time when I would be physically present with them but emotionally detached because I was OD’ing on Facebook and the crack of all social media, Pinterest.   Pinterest gives me the munches…O_o.  That was my first step.

2. Affirmation – Lytia, the bad wig-wearing (the wigs were killing me – Atlanta has a sea of well-groomed women who regardless of income have an eye for authentic Remy hair.  The crew in charge of hair needs an intervention led by, Paula Britt, the owner of Blendz) stereotypical boisterous brick house Waffle House hostess.  I liked her.  She started her family as a teenager and was cognizant that she made missteps in her parenting with her eldest sons.  Raising children in crime infested neighborhoods requires diffrent competencies than raising them in affluent, stable communities.  I imagine that affluent Single Mom’s sent their children to the elite private school to ensure their kids got ahead while Lytia was ensuring that the school was a step to aid her son in staying alive. Her son, played by the cutie patootie DeVion Harris, by all accounts is a bright boy attending a private school.  But Lytia is living under the immoblizing pressure of her past parenting mistakes.  Believing she was too soft with her older sons, she consistently throws the mistakes of his brothers into conversations when reprimanding Hakim.  Lesson: Speak love to your child by affirming who they are and the positive attributes they possess.  Some of us live in the shadows of dynamic siblings and are let with a feeling of not measuring up while others are oppressed into thinking that they are clone of a wayward brother or sister.  I was listening to Don Miguel’s The Fifth Agreement this morning and he sums up the power of words by stating simply that words are truth; distorted knowledge are lies.  Stop comparing our children with others because that is perpetrating a lie.  They are not other people.  Instead, speak to them about the truth of who they are.

3. Gifts – Esperanza is my physical she-ro.  Good grief can this lady rock a pair of pumps on a midday afternoon to go no where else but her ex-husband’s dealership.  When I grow up, I want a better shoe game. On any given day, I wear Chuck’s and knock-off Uggs like nobody’s business.  I blame Bentley.  He’s my leather-lusting 2 year old Shiat-zu. He has consumed most of my pumps and one day I will replace them all.  On top of that, I don’t crave hammer feet (remember that scene from Boomerang…those gnarled toes must have been the result of  wearing stilettos).  Esperanza GAVE LIFE to the term power walking when she rocked those heels at the dealership.  So when when strutted into her ex-husband’s business the moment and the shoes were a symbolic gesture of her putting her foot down.  The relationship with her ex-husband could be truncated into one word: control.  He used money and the lifestyle that money afforded to control her personal life and household although he had moved forward and entered into a new marriage with someone else.  In her younger years, she worked at a factory plant and undoubtedly she was afraid of losing the financially glamorous existence her child support was affording her.  Lesson:  As lovely as gifts are, beware of the Trojan horse because there may be some unwanted things hidden inside of attractive packages.  Esperanza’s ex-husband lavished on their daughter parties and electronic devices as a means of showing his love.  Temper the desire to ‘buy’ someone’s affection and remember that authentic gifts, like Esperanza’s homemade cake, are just as lovely and heartfelt.  Spoiling children with material gifts can be highly damaging to their character because the yearning for more things is an insatiable desire since material things are temporal.  So if you purchase the latest, hottest phone – how long will it take for that gadget to be considered an archaic relic?  How can you things that lose their monetary value quickly? Most of the ‘must have’ items available for the holidays are slashed in price by the end of January and tossed into the trash bin a year after purchase.  Gift-giving are a wonderful means of demonstrating love but be aware that these gifts need not be expensive. By the way, I tried to get my girls to celebrate the gift exchange part of Christmas on December 26th, but they wouldn’t go for it.  We are still working on this lesson.

4. Service – Hillary, the stay at home mom with a maid befuddled me.  If you have a maid, does that count as being a stay at-home mom?  Does Tyler have a Have Hillary’s Lifestyle Sweepstakes to promote this film?  My life would be forever changed with a housekeeper and handyman!  I’d pull Alice out of retirement ASAP!  We must pause for a commercial break: I loved her home.  The porch replete with swings overlooking the lake made me consider finding the residence and squatting.  Must. Check. Georgia. Homestead. Laws. After becoming a member of the Single Mom’s Club, Hillary introduced herself to her daughter.  I would have thought this moment was weird if I hadn’t had a conversation two weeks prior with my own daughters about the distance I was feeling with my eldest.  She’s an introvert and I am a silly fourteen year old boy packaged in a forty year old body.  I can be too much and our Felix and Oscar relationship can be a challenge for us both.   Lesson: As a parent, we cannot shirk the every day responsibilities to others and expect to feel bonded to them.  Life is about the little moments – doing homework, volunteering at school, braiding hair.  We show love through our actions and explicit support of our kids social, emotional and academic development. And we have to make an effort to know our kids.  What are they thinking about?  What are their aspirations?  Are we stuck in time thinking of who they were when they were seven or have we accepted that their maturation is ever evolving and that they are a  more complex being then just a year ago.  Get to know your kid again by engaging them in conversations.

5.  Physical Touch – Nia Long’s character May Miller is an aspiring author raising a son fathered by a man struggling with drug addiction.  Last Sunday, I attended East Gate Church in Cumming, GA and had the pleasure of listening to the powerful message by a gentleman who in his younger years succumbed to meth abuse.  Representing the Christian-based No Longer Bound drug rehabilitation center, this man challenged our perceptions of who a drug addict is and what it takes to become free from the shackles of substance abuse.  May’s son Rick, during the most heart-wrenching scene in the film, was left on the steps of his school when his father once again failed to show up.  He asked his mother, “Does dad love me?” while they drove home.  At that moment the impact of substance abuse on a child really hit home.  Like all of the other kids pictured in the film, Rick was being raised in a loving home.  But a mother’s love is not enough.  Children want to be rooted and that’s difficult if they are wondering who they are and whether a parent loves them.  Lesson: May hugged and kissed her son after his dad failed to show up.  One parent’s love does not erase the other parent’s neglect but the physical touch of one parent can ease some of the uncertainty and loneliness.  A gentle kiss on the forehead conveys to a child in one brief moment that you will be there by their side for a life time.

I read a recent report that the White House was seeking to ramp up the Pre-K Head Start program.  I love it but wonder what great impact could be made if they invested in developing parenting classes too.  Parenting is a learn-on-the-job lifetime commitment with precious little training opportunities.  There are times when you know you’ve nailed it and then there are those other times when only a glass of wine and a whole lot of Kleenex and bucket loads of prayer can get you off of the ledge.  I hope Arne and Barack (I am on first names basis with them too) take parent engagement into consideration as an avenue to achieve student success.  Strong, stable families are possible with support and the impact on children is immeasurable.  Cheers to man Tyler and The Single Mom’s Club!  To all of the single mommies, continue to love your children and build a support network to help you through the toughest job on the planet.

Peace and Joy,

Stephanie
P.S. LIKE us on FB to learn about family engagement activities and share our posts to spread the word about our summer camp, parent engagement workshops and academic mentoring.  www.facebook.com/ayaacademyofexcellence

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Teaching About Social Justice: The Holocaust Through the Literary Novel Night

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Night by Elie Wiesel is a gripping autobiography about a young Mann’s tortuous experience during the Holocaust. Although the book has a low page count, it is not a quick read. To fully absorb Wiesel’s journey, the account can and should be juxtaposed with other literature and documents. The images above are of a novel study handout I created for my student to accompany their reading. Questions posed were the basis of longer discussions we had in class about the Nazi’s treatment of Jews and others deemed dispensable. During these discussions other instances of social injustice, including the treatment of African Americans prior ti the passage of the Civil Rights Act, were discussed. The universal themes of power and resistance injustice were the topics of dialogue as we challenge how people have acted in the past to other ethnic and racial groups. This enabled students to challenge contemporary instances of social injustice.

Students also created thematic poetry using examples we read from those composed by children residing in ghetto Terazin. Analysis of quotes and images, including a mountain of collected shoes from souls lost to the gas chambers of a concentration camp, provided students an opportunity to think through the points of view of opposing voices during this conflict.

The students also created their own illustrations to depict events occurring within Wiesel’s account. The image above was from a highly artistic student and i realize in hindsight that she could have contributed an even more illustrative contribution had I provided more time and resources to this component of the novel study. In the future, I would have the students create their depictions on larger paper to create a museum exhibit akin the Washington, DC Holocaust Museum.

Night is an amazing book to use as a springboard for understanding the importance of social justice. Mr. Wiesel’s experience captures a place and time that is unique in history and highlights the societal issues of prejudice and power mongering which are timeless and universal.


Building Community Through Family Engagement

Building Community Through Family Engagement

I heart Malcolm Gladwell. His latest book, David and Goliath, is perched beneath my bed atop a short stack of other “Can’t Wait to Devour These Too’ selections. Between a full caseload in school, two children and a wayward dog, nightly reading has been pushed far back on he to-do list. So, when I can, I read articles and essays.

A few weeks ago, I read an article on Malcolm’s (we are so on first name basis…;o)…) website. His family, like mine are transplants from another country and he found that their Caribbean roots, at least for the first generation created an economic and professional inroads. Perception and work ethic intertwined to place them at the front lines of hiring and positioned them to acquire financial stability. There is a lot of good nuggets to gnash on within this piece, however, one critical point that was impressed upon me was the impact of community norms on individual success. We used a quote from Malcolm, apart from this essay, for our 20/20 Tapestry curriculum because it is evident that to transform circumstances, attitudes and minds, it is necessary to build environments which continuously affirm that thinking. We included it within the Tapestry of the Scholar featuring W.E.B. Dubois, a former Atlanta University professor who was a founding member of the NAACP.

The larger lesson, a single person can make great change. However, substantive transformation is dependent on providing environments which feed and nurture people’s capacity to grow. So, teachers within the school environment cannot be the only point of contact propelling young minds toward scholarship. Within the community, young people need their families, peers and community members to engage them in academic activities and dialogue as well to assist in their development. An academic community space in which young learners can participate in science, math and language development is a necessity to eradicate the pervasive low achievement experienced amongst students who reside in neighborhoods with low achieving schools.


Send Me Back Saturday: Launching Community Programming

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Redefine Start. These sage words were spoken to me a few years ago in response to how I was approaching serving youth and families. To me, I could not, prior to that conversation, see how to provide academic services without a brick and mortar location. Thereafter, my thinking changed and Aya began to takeoff because we began offering workshops in partnership with local libraries and afterschool programs.

The image above was taken two years ago during our first community-based literacy workshop series. Here are a few insights regarding working with and behalf of communities.

1. Focus. Have a clear and cogent objective. Initially, our organization took a Pinky and the Brain approach – we wanted to take over the world…in a good way. But it is impossible to serve every need. Therefore, go deep and not wide in regard to what you would like to focus on with your services.

2. Teamwork. Get a great team. Create a matrix which defines your strengths and identifies your gaps. Band together with others who can provide support in areas where you have gaps. I’ve been blessed with great collaborators who provide our organization with assets I have yet to develop. There is no shame in not excelling in everything. Just take note of what Tom Collins’ Good to Great proffers: Get the Right People on the Bus.

3. Midgetize. Start small. Work out the kinks. Expand. Last year, we launched our first camp….it was nearly 3 years in the planning…and it was worth the wait. This year we are expanding to serve three times the number of learners. By starting small, we had less constraints, including budget and recruitment of learners and personnel. This provided opportunities to reflect on instructional practices and operational strategies.

4. Dream. Feel free to delve into your creativity. Mentally walk through best case scenarios. When working with marginalized communities it is easy to listen to the apathy and entertain others’ frustrations. Let the ‘its never been done before’ roll off your back and open up to possibilities. This aids in becoming a problem solver and a change agent.

5. Serve. Help others. I sometimes volunteer more during the week then I do ‘work.’ That’s always been my heart. The universe does give back what you put in. Those I’ve assisted have looked out for our organization by including us in their other activities. Through a willingness to serve, others will provide support in unexpected wonderful ways. This process aids in building relationships which assists in the forward movement of your community initiatives.


Tools of the Trade: Story Chips

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A few years ago, I stumbled across a lovely resource to spark discussion during literacy workshops.Story Chips and Discussion chips are an affordable teaching tool to encourage learners to share their thoughts in small and large group settings. Since learners can select their questions, they feel a degree of ownership during the discussion process.

The chips, which retail for less than $5 at teacher resource stores, can be made at home. The questions are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and therefore, they have several levels of thinking ranging from recall to analytical inquiry. In class, I would allow learners a chance to swap questions out from the chips bucket to ensure they selected questions they were comfortable responding to in front of a group. While reading Julia Alvarez’ Before We Were Free, each student was paired with a partner and answered the questions together. The partners were allowed to first discuss with their buddy their individual responses to create a consensus before sharing out to the larger group. As always, getting to the ‘right’ answer took a back seat to developing students’ ability to think critically and dialogue with peers.

To make your own, create questions in Microsoft word to fit into a text box the size of a 20 ounce bottle cap (Vitamin Water). Glue the questions onto the bottle cap and Voila, you’ve saved $5!

What I love most is that these chips can be used with any age learner and within any setting. Families can have these on hand
at their bedside table to use during bedtime reading.


Holler If You Here Me

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This is a quick convergence of two thoughts regarding change.. First, art plays a critical role in shaping thought and inspiring change. (see Theory of Aesthetics) This summer, Kenny Leon, an alum of Clark Atlanta University, is developing a Broadway musical production with a slated opening for summer 2014. The prevailing themes of hope and friendship are set to the lyrics of artist Tupac Shakur. I am curious how Mr. Leon will present these themes in the context of Mr. Shakur’s work.

Prior to his passing, Mr. Shakur penned the following enduring lyrics in his song Changes:

“We gotta make a change.
It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes.
Let’s change the way we eat.
Let’s change the way we live.
And let’s change the way we treat each other.”

My second thought related to change was sparked by a two-hour video I watched this morning. While viewing a 2007 discussion on community mobilization presented by Angela Davis at the University of Oregon, I kept thinking of the students in a local afterschool program. These children are combatting pervasive issues of poverty, crime and abuse, simultaneously, while striving to learn academic skill sets to assist in their development into self-sustaining individuals. The community challenges the students are grappling with permeate the school walls and the internal culture is at times, chaotic, stressful and combative. The teachers are tired, the administration is on the verge of burn out and the children waver between apathy and momentary amusement. Ms. Davis could have been speaking directly to this school’s community when she stated,

“Students due not learn how to value knowledge, especially in black Hispanic and poor communities, instead they learn that going to school is being disciplined – prep school for prison.”

Within these walls, there is a lack of joy, a lack of inspiration and a lack of hope.

So in the midst of this culture, and while listening to Professor Davis’ thoughts on the role of self reflection and critical thinking in building structural changes for empowered communities, I created a quick interactive game for families or classes to play to assist young people with developing personal empowerment so that they can take charge of their own trajectories and to begin working collaboratively to better their own neighborhoods.

The game is called changes. Every time a participant answers in the affirmative, they move forward one space to demonstrate that this is a choice they have made or have a willingness to make. The goal is for them to connect to the thought that certain decisions will add value to their lives and will lead them to a more productive future. The participants can and should discuss their choices with each step they make. The statements can be added or modified to suit the needs of the learners. These statements are based on my personal view that self-sustainable and emotionally healthy individuals, think critically, do not operate within monolithic spheres, regard multiple viewpoints as opportunities for growth, embrace art, balance their intellectual and physical development, seek to support their local and global community, nurture their artistic skill sets and value their own voice.

STATEMENTS:
Math is hard. Go online and practice for 30 minutes each night for the next 3 weeks.
Build a model of a bridge, robot or skeleton.
Join an afterschool club to learn something new.
Spend a Saturday afternoon each month volunteering to help others.
Organize others to clean up your school.
Read independently every day.
Read the newspaper or watch the news from multiple news outlets.
Have conversations with people who have different views then your own.
Read biographies about world and community leaders.
You are given $100 for a gift. Opt to save the money instead of spending it on new outfit.
Teacher assigns you detention for something you didn’t do. You speak to the teach after class to discuss your point of view.
You get 1 hour of computer time. You decide to go online and visit a virtual field trip site.
Keep a journal and jot down your thoughts.
Your closest friends cut classes. You distance yourself from them.
Create sketches, doodles, poems or lyrics in your free time.
Learn and Practice a second language.
Develop your own set rules to help you decide what is right and wrong.
Read affirmations daily.
Exercise or meditate daily.
Eat a large salad with a bottle of water instead of combo meal with a large soda.

My intended post on community mobilization and the role education plays in this effort will be forthcoming. Just had to share this and hope it helps those who work with empowering marginalized youth.


Imagination Stations: Setting Up Science Inquiry Stations

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Clanking of metal. Whirling of water down a drain. The sprouting of thistles through densely packed earth. Rays of light streaming through the panes of an arched window forming ripples of rainbows. The wonders of science are ever-present in our daily life and by closing textbooks and opening our eyes, our children can delve deeply into learning that is meaningful.

I recently crafted an after-school curriculum for a local Atlanta program seeking to raise the science and math thinking of their students. After combing through the Common Core Standards, I assembled a few dozen activities to pique children’s interests while aiding their understanding of life and earth science. Within the next year, our organization is seeking to establish a share space for families to engage in academic learning. This space, The Community Classroom, will have a robotics lab, art studio and a technology lab with supplies to explore, create, build and program. Here are a few of the activities our maker space will carry that families can participate in today with everyday objects they have at home.

General Notes:
Store and collect basic supplies in a closet or bookshelf space.
More unique items can be found in thrift stores, like Goodwill.
Use a file sharing system, like Google Docs, to store activity how-to sheets.

Imagination Station One: DNA Extraction
SUPPLIES

  • Strawberry
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dish detergent
  • Salt
  • Zip-lock bag
  • Water
  • Measuring utensils
  • Beakers (Substitute a Plastic Toothbrush Holder)
  • Tweezers
  • Spoon

Strawberry

What to Do:

  1. Into a beaker, pour 2 drops of dish soap into 1/4 cup of water.
  2. Add 1/4 tsp of salt.
  3. Mix to form the extraction solution.
  4. Place 1 strawberry and the extraction solution into a plastic bag.
  5. Squeeze out the air from the bag and tightly seal it.
  6. Mash the strawberry and extraction solution.
  7. Open the bag and pour the mixture into a beaker.
  8. Add a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to the solution.
  9. Using tweezers, remove the white, fluffy strings at the op of the mixture.
  10. You’re DONE!

The Science: Our DNA, a series of individualized codes, is the blueprint of body. Like the strawberry, our DNA can be extracted and scientists can study it to see a sequence of codes that are used o determine how our body develops, including how our hear grows and how our eyes are shaped.

Imagination Station Two: Cotton-ball Catapult
SUPPLIES
Craft Sticks
Spoons
Large Markers
Masking Tape
Cotton-Balls
Rubber-Bands
Measuring Tape/Ruler

Cotton Ball

What to Do:

1. Attach a spoon to a craft sticks securely with a rubber band near the top end.

2. Using a rubber band, secure a second craft sticks to the opposite end of the first one to make the edges touch.

3. Slide a marker between both craft sticks.

4. Launch a series of cotton balls with the catapults.  Change the trajectory (height and distance of the path the object travels) by pressing down the spoon with varying degrees of softness or hardness.

5. Alter the location of the rubber bands to test whether this change alters the trajectory of the object.

6. Test your accuracy by propping masking tape upright to attempt launching the projectiles (thrown objects) through the center of the tape.

The Science: The Concept of Variability checks the degree of change for a set of data (in this case, the number of launches).  Learners should track how each change they make impacts the results.

Imagination Station Three: Lego Re-Loaded
SUPPLIES
Bags of Legos, Duplo or Standard Size
Index Cards

Lego Bundle

What To Do: On separate index cards, write the following Lego challenges to design each over time –

1. Tallest Tower – Within the next 60 seconds, create a Lego structure that is as tall as possible.

2. Vessel – Create an object that can hold something within the room you are in during your build.

3. Bridge – Develop a structure which connects to areas in the room you are in during your build.

4. Dream House – Design a futuristic home with at least two rooms and an outdoor space.

5. Go Green – Create a tool which can be used to harness energy.

6. Lego Logo – Re-create a famous logo or symbol.

7. Vehicle – Design a means that can transport people by land, sea or air.

8. Mutation – Design a structure that can transform into a living animal or plant.

9. Ecosystem – Build a habitat for an animal or plant to live.

10. Monument – Re-create a famous structure.

The Science – Building requires the participant to use problem solving skills and imagination. While creating structures, learners will employ engineering principles, including stability. Learners will employ the engineering design process to assist in employing their critical and innovative thinking.

Engineering Design Process

Books For Fun – Graphic Novels (Comic Books) have a fun, storytelling platform which appeals to both boys and girls.  Decoding Genes with Max Axiom by Amber J. Keyser is a good read for kids interested in learning more about DNA and genetics.

Decoding Genes Book

Hands-on learning is a platform to develop thinking skills through involvement.  The maker space movement, often spearheaded by public libraries and schools, is a noteworthy trend that empowers learners, both young and old, to develop new skill sets.  Our Community Classroom seeks to do just that by equipping families to learn collaboratively.  In an upcoming post, we will add  a few more of our proposed Community Classroom imagination stations families can try at home and will discuss how to align inquiry stations with a standards-based curriculum.


Words of Wisdom

While curating images and videos to represent our African-American history tableau, my conscience was constantly pricked, realizing that sometimes the ‘least of these’ is forgotten in our history. Black History month focuses on a handful of notable leaders. But this reality of parsing through history is true across United States and global history too. So when I came across a profound Polish proverb about the farmer’s role in society, I had to include it within the 20/20 Tapestry which highlights the contributions of George Washington Carver. It succinctly addresses the importance of the farmer within society.

To me, quotes and sayings are excellent vehicles to critically think within the classroom or around the dinner table. Aya Academy of Excellence’s 20/20 Tapestry Curriculum includes at least one word of wisdom for each lesson to be used as a warm-up in the school setting or as a prompt for parents to use as a conversation starter with their children. Some of my personal favorites from the curriculum are from Maya Angelou, Cicero, and Malcolm Gladwell.

The imagery used in this quote, and throughout the curriculum, helps to convey the raw emotion connected with the words. What will kids feel when they see and hear this picture and the accompanying words? And, more importantly, what does this proverb tell us about the status of farmers? Is poverty monetary or are riches based something less tangible, like our quality of life and overall well-being? Through quotes, highly complex topics, such as social status, can be introduced to even the youngest of learners. And often, there is no right or wrong response. Quotes allow for increased critical thinking in a highly, accessible fashion because they spark both thought and discourse.

Click on the link to view a sample lesson from our point-and-click African-American history curriculum. Proceeds from the sale of our curriculum will provide support for our programming, including our Community Classroom, which is a share space that enables families to engage in STEM, art and literacy together. Thank you for supporting our youth and families.

2020 Tapestry Analyze It_Farmer


Getting on the ‘Write’ Track

For the past several weeks, the girls and I have been horribly off track. Our highly regimented schedule relaxed to the point of paralysis and countless distractions have impeded us from using our learning time wisely. But today is a brand new day and we are whipping out so e of the tools we created earlier in the year to get us back on track with all of our content areas and especially with our writing.

To assist with limiting distractions, the girls and I created personalized writing centers for them. Since this was our first year homeschooling they were used to some of the hallmarks of public education including individualized desks. The writing centers help transform our dining-room table from meal mode to learning zone. We created them out of two manila folders, construction paper, a slew of pictures and clear tape. The inside has plastic sleeves the girls use to store reference sheets and their best work.

Another aid to keep our writing on track are our writing prompt sticks. The girls randomly select from these to create short responses on varied topics. Today, Ava selected: What is Something You Feel Optimistic About? This was her first time using the term optimistic and she chose to craft her sentences on our puppy Bentley. She stated, she’s ‘optimistic that he will stay calm one day.’ We can only hope!

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